Why Atlanta Falcons should trade down in the 2016 NFL Draft

Feb 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Trading back in the 2016 NFL Draft would make a lot of sense for the Atlanta Falcons.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff isn’t afraid to move around in the draft, as he proved when giving up the house to land Julio Jones back in 2011.

Trading up is a risky business as it requires surrendering draft picks for a prospect you like. If it works, you’re hailed as a genius. If it doesn’t, you’re to blame. Another move that carries some risk is trading back, potentially passing up on a better talent to acquire more picks.

But with just five selections in this year’s event, the Falcons would be smart to drop back and stock up on draft picks. This isn’t a team on the cusp of a Super Bowl, rather one laying the bricks for a positive future.

Defensively — particularly up front — this is a very good draft, and the Falcons need a lot of help on that side of the ball. Trading back in the first round wouldn’t necessarily mean passing up on a generational talent. Unlike the past two drafts, Atlanta doesn’t have the luxury of picking inside the top-ten.

Before trying to find a dance partner lower in the draft order, it’s first important to understand why moving down would make sense.

For the Falcons, which first-round talent is going to be a game-changer for them at 17? With the exception of a scenario in which a Shaq Lawson or Joey Bosa drops to Atlanta, trading down wouldn’t require passing up on a potentially elite pass rusher.

I’m not willing to jump on the Leonard Floyd bandwagon. There’s no doubting he’s a talented player, but he’s far from a ‘safe’ pick and presents a number of question marks. NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter agrees, naming Floyd as one of his “boom-or-bust” prospects:

"“Tall, long, and lean pass-rush prospects have had mixed results in the NFL. For every Clay Matthews, Manny Lawson, and Julian Peterson, there is a Dion Jordan or Barkevious Mingo. Unfortunately for Floyd, the latter two were the more recent selections, leading scouts to wonder if Floyd has the strength and flexibility to consistently hassle quarterbacks on Sundays. In fact, Floyd managed just 3.5 sacks in his junior year at Georgia, down from 6.5 and 6 the previous two years, respectively.”"

Darron Lee is another name associated with the Falcons, but is he worth picking up at 17? There’s a chance he could slide into the bottom of the round. At worst, Atlanta misses out on Lee and goes after a day two prospect like Deion Jones out of LSU.

What are the benefits of trading down?

Which extra picks Atlanta would acquire would depend on how far they drop. If a team picking at the bottom of the first such as Seattle or Kansas City came in, the Falcons could expect to receive a third and a fourth on top of swapping firsts.

If a team like Cleveland — picking first in the second round — was looking to leap up possibly in search of a quarterback, the Falcons could expect something in the range of a second, third, fourth and sixth.

The Seahawks could look to move up for a top offensive lineman such as Jack Conklin. Without many holes on their roster, trading up for an area of need wouldn’t put them at a great deal of risk. The Chiefs could look to hit on a top wide receiver in what is a relatively weak class. A Corey Coleman or Josh Doctson would give Kansas City’s offense a new dimension.

If a quarterback like Paxton Lynch fell beyond the Los Angeles Rams who pick at No. 15, the Browns might need to move up ahead of a bunch of candidates to land the Memphis star. The obvious are the Broncos and Cardinals at 31 and 29 respectively, but don’t rule out the Jets at No. 20 who are yet to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick.

By adding an extra two, or potentially three picks, the Falcons would have a full complement to work with. This would allow Dimitroff and Dan Quinn to dip into the deep pool of defensive linemen, while also having more freedom to fix needs at defensive end, linebacker and safety.

With more swings of the bat, maybe Quinn would be willing to take a flier on Noah Spence. Spence has the talent of a top-ten pick but has major red flags after a history of failed drugs tests. If he can put his off-the-field issues behind him, Spence is a special talent and one of the best pure pass rushers in the draft.

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By trading down, the Falcons would have more options to add not only quality, but depth to a defense crying out for help.

What are your thoughts, Falcons fans?